Skip to product information
1 of 2

Bermondsey Coins

Roman Imperial, Elagabalus, silver denarius, Antioch or Emesa, c. 218 AD, the baetyl Elagabal

Roman Imperial, Elagabalus, silver denarius, Antioch or Emesa, c. 218 AD, the baetyl Elagabal

Regular price £925.00 GBP
Regular price Sale price £925.00 GBP
Sale Sold out
Roman Imperial, Elagabalus, silver denarius, Antioch or Emesa, c. 218 AD, the baetyl Elagabal on a triumphal quadriga with parasols. The reverse legend reads SANCT DEO SOLI ELAGABAL = "[Dedicated] to the Holy God of the Sun, Elagabal". The obverse shows Elagabalus facing right, with the legend "ANTONINVS PIVS FEL AVG". 

Elagabalus was born Varius Avitus Bassianus to Julia Soaemias, the niece of Julia Domna, and became in his youth hereditary high-priest of the ancient cult of Elagabal in Emesa (modern-day Homs). Elagabal (="mountain god") was a large meteorite (baetyl) of black stone which was worshipped in the principal cult of Emesa, and syncretized with Zeus. This issue, of great historical importance, shows the baetyl on a triumphal quadriga, on its journey to Rome, where it would temporarily usurp the Capitoline Triad to become the centre of Roman religion until Elagabalus' untimely death. While the religious reforms of Elagabalus were controversial and largely reversed, they were a clear precursor to the orientalizing of Roman civic religion, which later manifested in the cult of Sol Invictus and eventually the adoption of Christianity as the sole religion of the state. 

The use of the titles "PIVS" and "FEL" on the coinage is significant. Despite Elagabalus' accession being by conquest, the defeat of the armies of Macrinus and Diadumenian in the East, his party was keen to emphasise the return to constitutional rule under the Severan dynasty, especially given the apprehension in Rome about Elagabalus' religious practices and "foreign" culture. As recorded by Cassius Dio (18:4), it was proclaimed by the new emperor that he would not take titles in commemoration of his victory, but only wished to be referred to as Pius and Felix. 

VF+, residual lustre, struck from worn dies. Rare. 

RIC IV 195
View full details